Perform Before a 'Live' Audience in Activision's 'Guitar Hero' Reboot

Franchise Returns With Innovative Gameplay and 24-Hour Playable Music Video Network

Published On
Apr 14, 2015

Editor's Pick

This morning, Activision has pulled the "Guitar Hero" franchise out of hibernation with the announcement of "Guitar Hero Live."

The brand and agency 72andSunny unveiled a three-minute trailer introducing the upcoming installment to the long-dormant game series, due out this fall. Like the typical video game ad, it features what looks like a "live action" reenactment of the game play. Shot from the first person POV of the player, a member of the fictitious band "Broken Tide," the film captures the player's emotional experience -- from the backstage jitters, to the pre-performance adrenaline rush, to the disappointment felt after a wrong chord is struck and the crowd starts to hiss.

It turns out, however, that this isn't a cinematic recreation of the game -- it's the game itself.

"Guitar Hero Live" aims to turn the music game genre on its head by putting the player in the middle of the action, in front of a real, non-CG crowd, and his or her performance will determine whether the crowd jeers, or goes wild. As the player progresses, the real people venues will get bigger and more challenging, going from an intimate bar setting to a massive venue where the player performs in front of an audience of a hundred thousand.

Activision hasn't released a Guitar Hero game since 2010, and at a launch event in New York this morning, Activision Publishing CEO Eric Hirshberg explained, "We made a deal with ourselves that we would create a new game if, and only if, we had a meaningful, breakthrough idea." At the heart of that idea is the notion of "stage fright."

The company surveyed consumers and found that a fear of being on a stage ranked higher than fear of death -- and of zombies. Putting the player on a real stage, in front of a real audience --and creating this sense of stage fright was the "meaningful, breakthrough reinvention" that made a new game launch worthwhile, he said.

But 2015 game's key innovation --the live action component -- posed one of the most interesting challenges in terms of the marketing, according to Activision Executive VP-Chief Marketing Officer Tim Ellis. "It's very common for videogames to use live action in their trailers. Activision has used the live action trailer to convey the emotional promise of a videogame, but here, we have real live action as the key innovation."

Activision and 72 ultimately addressed the challenge by simply stating it how it is. In the film, as the player launches into a successful a set and the crowd goes wild, copy appears: "This isn't what it 'feels like' to play the new "Guitar Hero." This is the new 'Guitar Hero.'" The agency worked closely with Activision and the game's developer, Freestyle, to ensure that certain scenes of the game were shot appropriately to fit the trailer.

Other innovations of the new game include GHTV, a 24-hour, playable music video network that will allow gamers to play the game alongside current artists' clips, as well as a new guitar controller that features playing buttons in a two row interface, ditching the colored buttons of the previous version.

Read the full story on the game launch on